Two adult comedies, New Line's Hairsprayand Universal's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, will try to unseat the family film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixas the box-office leader this weekend. They'll have their work cut out for them. Phoenixwas earning about $10 million per day in midweek ticket sales and has grossed about $177 million since its July 11 opening. The two newcomers were expected to earn around $30 million each.


Adam Sandler movies have rarely been critical favorites (although they have often been big money makers). This one, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,which he produced and stars in, is no exception. In it he portrays Chuck, the best friend of Larry, played by Kevin James, a firefighter raising two kids after the death of his wife and worried about what will happen to them if he is killed in the line of duty. Although both men are straight, Larry persuades Chuck to become his domestic partner. "The result is a disappointing mishmash of stale gay jokes and situations completely undercut by the very premise of the film itself," writes Bill Zwecker in the Chicago Sun-Times.Manohla Dargis in the New York Timeswrites that "the movie resembles a game of Mother May I? in that for every tiny step it takes forward in the name of enlightenment ... it takes three giant steps back, often by piling on more jokes about gay sex." Jack Mathews makes the identical point in the New York Daily News. "It is," he writes, "an hour and a half of clichéd gay jokes and 25 minutes of pro-gay apologies." Desson Thomas in the Washington Postcomments that the film "takes a hot-button issue -- the cultural impact of gay marriage -- and treats it with such Stone Age sensibility, a Geico caveman would groan." And although the film has received an endorsement of sorts from the gay-activist group GLAAD, Claudia Puig in USA Todayremarks that it is "laced with a heavy dose of homophobia, sexism and racism" while trying at the same time "to undercut its insulting story with some last-minute sappiness about tolerance and acceptance." Kyle Smith in the New York Postbegins his review by commenting, "The movie isn't insulting to homosexuals but to comedy. As a hetero, I'm so embarrassed, I'm thinking of going undercover until this movie fades away." And Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sunsums it all up this way: "Blechhh!"


Hairspray, a remake of the 1988 John Waters film that starred a man (the late Divine) in drag, may not be as groundbreaking as the original, but it certainly is creating as much of a stir. "Hairsprayis just plain fun," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, who then adds: "Or maybe not so plain. There's a lot of craft and slyness lurking beneath the circa-1960s goofiness." In fact, this Hairspraymay owe more to the Broadway musical version of the movie than the original movie itself. As Jack Mathews writes in the New York Daily News: "At the price of a movie ticket, this roof-raising ode to the innocent last days of '60s rock 'n' roll is easily the best summer bargain on or off Broadway." Several critics remark that the movie's accomplishments come as a surprise. Says Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "The movie's style and exuberance torpedoed my initial misgivings within seconds." And how is John Travolta in the Divine role? Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune answers: "Travolta was not born to play a demure frump of either gender or any species, but when he hits a simple dance combination, suddenly you glimpse the showman within and forget about the weird voice and all that padding." Says Lou Lumenick in the New York Post: "After a few minutes, you fully accept Travolta not as a man in drag, but as an enormous woman with a heart to match." And Amy Biancolli in the Houston Chronicle remarks that "Travolta brings undeniable girlie sweetness" to the role.


German authorities denied Thursday that Tom Cruise's association with Scientology played any part in their refusal to allow the use of a national memorial in the filming of his forthcoming United Artists movie Valkyrie. Cruise, who is the co-head of UA with producing partner Paula Wagner, plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who headed the so-called General's Plot to assassinate Hitler during World War II and was executed in Berlin's Bendler Block. Government spokesman Torsten Albig said Thursday, "We granted all permissions [for location filming] but the one for the Bendler Block, because the dignity of this place should not be violated. ... These circumstances show that the religious beliefs of the actor are without relevance."